Wednesday, September 6, 2017

FLASHBACK: Live from New York...'Search for Tomorrow' (1983)

In the summer of 1983, somebody stole -- or misplaced -- the only two videotapes of the August 4th episode of NBC soap opera Search for Tomorrow. Some said the tapes were simply mislabeled, but lost forever among thousands of tapes at the West 81st Street studio. Others said a disgruntled employee stole them, or was it the scorned boyfriend of a cast member? Whatever happened, the show would have to go on at 12:30 p.m. ET, and would be played live for the first time in 14 years. There simply wasn't time to tape the episode again.

The soap opera's flamboyant, red-haired executive producer, Joanna Lee, vehemently denied any kind of publicity stunt.

"I have a reputation of 20 years, and that would be a tacky thing to do," she said. "Besides, this wouldn't be a show I would take ... I would take one totally terrific. There was one last week with a gorgeous moment between mother and daughter."

Privately, cast members didn't care what happened to the tapes -- they were thankful for the sudden attention by the mainstream press. "If it's a hoax, I think it's great," said one actor, who asked not to be quoted by name.

The dress rehearsal didn't go perfectly. The door in a motel room set stuck when an actor tried to enter. The show's youngest actor, 13-year-old Damion Scheller, held a magazine too high and obscured his face from the camera. Jennifer Gatti wasn't dramatic enough on her entrance line, said director Bob Schwarz as he spoke individually with actors after the rehearsal.

An hour before air time, reporters took places before TV sets away from the real scene of the action; actors got themselves together. Rod Arrants' wife phoned to say "I love you, and good luck." Director Schwarz's wife joined him in the control room.

At 12:30, the voice of veteran announcer Don Pardo rolled from the TV speaker: "Live from New York ... Search for Tomorrow."

There were some odd pauses as some lines were fluffed. A fly landed on an actor's cheek.

When it was over, cast members hugged each other, the crew and even some reporters.

The episode was recently uploaded to YouTube. Watch it below.

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